Category Archives: Team Development

Is Your Employee Appreciation Week “Weak”?


It’s a wonderful privilege to honor your people through the various Employee Appreciation Days and Weeks.

Whether it’s Nurses Appreciation Week, Administrative Professionals Day, Maintenance Appreciation Week, Customer Service Appreciation Week or any of the other recognized weeks, they give a tremendous opportunity to deepen the level of engagement in your organization.

And yet many, many organizations, and particularly the leaders of those teams or organizations, display a shameful treatment of their employees that reveal to all of their people how they truly value them. 

Consider some of these actual examples that leaders executed to show “appreciation” for their people:

  • Ice cream sandwiches. (Yes, that was it! That was all they received!)
  • Spotify gift cards – for new accounts only. Most of the employees had existing or shared accounts and ended up re-gifting these.
  • The Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts gift card with just enough on it for a free coffee, not even a Venti or a Latte. (This happens more often that you realize)
  • Leftover food from first and second shifts. (We appreciate the people on third shift but don’t want to stay up late to make that extra effort for them)
  • Company t-shirts, mugs or anything else that praises the company and not the employee.
  • Cheap nail clippers, name badge holders, pens, hats that no one will wear, and so on (you get the picture)
  • Holiday hams, but nothing for vegetarian employees
  • Letting budget be an excuse for not doing anything special (“That’s all we have budgeted for the week”)

These very examples (and many, many more) are just some of the reasons why employee engagement scores low in most organizations.

Great leaders know that while appreciating your team is an every day, purposeful event, when it’s time to focus such as the various appreciation weeks, going above and beyond will go a long way in keeping your culture intact.

If you want to make your people truly feel APPRECIATED keep these following principles in mind:

  • So something different each day and every day throughout the week. Food one day, cards the next, auction off some gifts another day … be creative. Mix it up day to day and year to year.
  • Have all the leaders spend whatever time is needed to execute and host and serve. (One year our leadership team spend all night making truffles and bagging them for the staff)
  • Be available at all times to personally serve and thank your people. If that means giving up sleep for 3rd shift employees, or coming in on weekends and nights, then that is what you need to do. Nothing is more impressive than when a staff member sees their leader traveling to the remote facility, showing up at 1:00am, or hopping in their truck or loading dock to meet them personally.
  • Don’t make a fool of yourself. Long speeches, drinking, or being inappropriate with your humor will do more harm than good.
  • Careful of making recognition fun that doesn’t connect. Watch your people for their reaction and change course as needed. Get employee feedback throughout the year for what they want.
  • Know your audience. If you give gifts that no one wants or can use (such as the holiday ham to the vegetarian), or show appreciation that misses the mark (such as humor or fun events that people think are boring or in poor taste, this can backfire on you. Study and know your people throughout the year to find what the culture of the team will appreciate.
  • Be there. Don’t schedule vacations, seminars, or board meetings during this time. They want to see you. If at all possible ride with them, work alongside them, or find a means to connect during their work week to understand them better as not just employees but as PEOPLE.
  • Spare no expense. That doesn’t mean to be unwise in your stewardship of company finances, but to be cheap (or frugal or however you justify it) will only make the employees feel cheap and undervalued. So many companies skimp on training and other initiatives for their people, that you will make a huge impact in letting them know the company and its leaders spent decent money on them.

Engagement and retaining talent starts with appreciation. Not only during a given week, but in every day, make your people know that they are appreciated in the way that THEY, not you, want.

(image: gratisography)


Opportunity – Which Flag Are You Flying?


Living 13 miles away from Loudon, New Hampshire, places me next door to New England’s largest sporting venue, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

A large mile-long track attracts numerous events throughout the racing season.

But twice a year, over 100,000 racing fans come to camp out all week and see the NASCAR circuit races throughout a major event-filled weekend.

Not particularly a racing fan myself, but a sporting fan overall, I enjoy watching the rules and strategies come into play, particularly how the drivers adjust to the various changes of the race, as designated by the color flags being flown.

Depending on the track conditions or the behavior of a driver, these flags reveal to everyone certain conditions that must be heeded. When flown, these flags give the drivers an indication of what is about to happen or what needs to be responded to.

Flags are given in organizations as well, but in a more subtle sense.

When it comes to employee engagement and opportunities to shine within the company, what flags are you flying?

Consider what you are communicating out there as it correlates to the NASCAR flags:

  • Green Flag – This flag indicates that the race is on. Is the race – the opportunity to develop, promote, and build your people – a green flag? Are positions posted and everyone given a fair chance to show their talents and skills? Do you create opportunities, projects, and positions for all of your people to grow professionally and in turn grow your company?
  • Yellow Flag – A yellow flag shows caution ahead, and indicates that drivers may need to slow down. What are the signs of caution that get communicated to your staff, that prevent them from charging forward, being fully engaged, or even trusting you? Do they have a chance to freely voice their concerns and effect change? Do they feel that the road ahead is littered with debris and speed bumps that will derail their goals or confidence in the organization, or both? Are you cleaning up the track so the green flag can be unfurled again?
  • Red Flag – A red flag means to stop the race immediately. Do your people see the red flags that go up in your organization? The person who gets promoted without the job being posted. The downsizing and workforce reductions due to mismanagement or cost avoidance. The questions that don’t get straight or honest answers, thus eroding all trust. The actions, contradictions in culture, or broken promises that tell your people to get off the track and find another race. Do you see what your own people see? Remember, it takes more energy, fuel and momentum to get a car back up to speed after it has been stopped. Stop the red flags before they come out.
  • Black flag – A black flag is the consultation flag, signifying a driver needs to address an individual issue quickly. Are you flying a black flag to a person when their otherwise stellar performance starts to lag? Or when their agenda shows their values are not congruent to the organization’s and will dilute the team’s vision? Do you hesitate to address issues out of fear, indifference, or a willingness to just get rid of the individual? Think of how the impact slows down the other people (drivers) and gets in the way or them doing their work and succeeding. Flying the black flag quickly and effectively coaching the person back on the track will salvage their career; failure to do so may prevent others from trusting your leadership and cause them to put the brakes on their performance by navigating around the debris left in its wake.
  • Blue Flag With Yellow Stripe – This is the passing flag, letting other drivers know that faster cars are coming up. This flag can have opposite meanings. Your message to your people can show favoritism to those who you set up to succeed, or obstacles that prevent the others from having a turn in the driver’s seat. Or it can be taking your people aside to encourage them to pursue projects and goals that will enable them to zoom ahead in their career and not feel like they are being left in the dust. The decision regarding how you fly this flag is yours, so choose wisely.
  • White Flag – A white flag means the lead driver is entering into the final lap. I call this the cheer-leading flag. When your people get close to attaining their goals, do you cheer them on and invite others to do so as well? Are you showing people that opportunity exists for them also, perhaps not during this race but perhaps the next? By highlighting the people who make the most of their opportunities, you not only encourage everyone else on the team to jump in the next time, but also to partake in team efforts to help others succeed in their goals as well.
  • Checkered Flag – When the checkered flag waves, the race has a winner. In racing, there is only one winner. That doesn’t have to be so in your organization. This doesn’t just mean the company as well, but consider how entire teams, departments, and even cross-disciplines can mutually win. A race car driver does not win all by himself or herself. He or she has a dedicated crew and support cast that shares in the victory. A leader who creates true opportunity will allow as many people as possible to win and have a chance to show their skills and worth to the organization. They buy milk and flower wreaths for the team and hoist the cup with them as partners in the overall accomplishments of their mutual victory.

What flags are you flying for your team? Are you truly creating opportunity over multiple races for people to take the pole position on a project, run the lead lap, and go to victory lane? What flags do your people see you flying?

Make sure everyone gets in the race, and help them to run it well.

(image: flagsexpress)

Guest Post – Diversity of Thoughts Raises Complexity By Sunnie Giles


Our post today is from author and thought leader Dr. Sunnie Giles. Dr. Giles’ latest book, The New Science of Radical Innovation, provides a clear process for radical innovation that produces 10x improvements and has been endorsed prominent industry leaders such as Jonathan Rosenberg, Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Sean Covey.

“As we have seen, harnessing the collective intelligence of people from diverse backgrounds can solve seemingly insurmountable feats, impossible to solve by one super expert. To curate various interdisciplinary functions within an organization, or even across diverse organizations, and produce extraordinary results, leaders must be open to divergent views and flexible enough to seriously consider the merits of opposing views. Valuing diverse opinions requires asking questions more than issuing orders. Collective error is equal to the average of individual errors minus diversity (variance) of the group.

“Scott Page also mathematically explains that collective error is almost always smaller than individual errors, because collective error is equal to the average of individual errors minus diversity (variance) of the group. From this equation, we can surmise that there are two ways to decrease collective error: reduce the average individual error, by hiring smart people; or increase the diversity of thoughts from many people. It also highlights a potential risk: if we adopt other people’s opinions or mental models too much, we might reduce individual errors, but the diversity (variance) of the group goes down, resulting in higher collective error. This is a mathematical explanation for what happens in groupthink; people make irrational or dysfunctional decisions in an effort to conform to each other (as was the case in the space shuttle Challenger disaster). Everyone on your team must be valued and given credence to minimize collective error. This, in turn, raises collective complexity.

“The reason diversity lowers collective errors is that people bring different heuristics and perspectives shaped by their unique life experiences. Those who grow up in the Siberian tundra have a much richer vocabulary and perspective on cold weather, ice, vodka, and caribou, and see the world through those lenses. Those who grow up in a thatch-roofed house built on Rio Dulce in Guatemala have a completely different perspective on rivers, boats, fish, swimming, and tropics, and see the world through those lenses. Life experiences from different environments provide different heuristics, or simple rules, to handle daily challenges in life. When two engineers from these two completely different environments are put together on a team to solve a problem about how to design space meals optimal for weight and reuse, the resulting output will be much richer than if the two engineers had both grown up in Titusville, Florida. For challenging problems, we need a team, ideally made up of people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse heuristics.”


About Dr. Sunnie Giles:

Dr. Sunnie Giles is a new generation expert who catalyzes organizations to produce radical innovation by harnessing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).

Her research reveals that applying concepts from neuroscience, complex systems approach, and quantum mechanics can produce radical innovation consistently. Her expertise is based on years as an executive with Accenture, IBM and Samsung. Her profound, science-backed insight is encapsulated in her leadership development program, Quantum Leadership.

An advisor to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, she also is a sought-after speaker and expert source, having been quoted in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, and Inc.


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